The Wellington boys basketball team was trending upward when its season came to an abrupt end last month.
The Jaguars had won seven games in a row and 10 of 12 when the remainder of the postseason was indefinitely postponed March 12 and ultimately canceled March 26 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Wellington, which defeated Fort Loramie 38-35 in a Division IV regional semifinal March 10 at the University of Dayton and was to have faced Jackson Center in a regional final March 13 at the same venue, finished 18-9 overall.
The Jaguars had been in Division III each of the past two seasons after making runs to the Division IV state tournament in 2016 and '17 and were one step away from making it back to state when the postseason was halted.
"I was remaining hopeful that (finishing the postseason) could happen, but as I watched the news and read of so many cancelations affecting the sports world, I just knew we were next," coach Artie Taylor said. "As time passed more and more, each day was a day closer to canceling. I know (OHSAA executive director) Jerry (Snodgrass) and all the administrators at the OHSAA office looked at every factor they could to not come to this decision.
"I let my basketball family know the news and told them to stay encouraged and that no one event can define the successful journey this team had. They are truly champions in my book. Told them we'll get through this and to just keep communication lines open with each other and family and friends, letting them all know how loved they are."
One of only two Division IV programs in the MSL-Ohio Division, which features mostly Division II and III teams, the Jaguars went 6-6 in the league to tie Buckeye Valley for fourth place behind co-champions Whitehall and Worthington Christian (both 9-3).
Second-seeded Wellington then won its third district title in five seasons, beating third-seeded Berne Union 69-45 in a district final March 5 at Ohio Dominican.
"I really value that our coach puts us against some of the best talent in central Ohio so that we're prepared going into the tournament," junior guard Marcus Stewart said. "When we get (deep into the postseason), we're already prepared and have the mentality going in that we can compete with anybody on the floor."
Wellington is losing six seniors, led by forward Elijah Meredith, who averaged 18.0 points and 9.5 rebounds and was named first-team all-district, second-team all-state and MSL-Ohio Player of the Year.
Guards Evan Henry, Connor Herrick, Noah Jones-Beyene and Yoshi Parker, each of whom averaged five points, were other key seniors. Herrick was honorable mention all-league.
Stewart is expected to be the top returnee next season after averaging 11.5 points and earning second-team all-league and all-district and honorable mention all-state honors.
Sophomore guard/wing player Chase Ouellette (8.5 points per game) and freshman wing player/forward Brandon Ivery (8.0 ppg) are other key players eligible to return.
Sophomore guard Aurius Calloway, freshman wing player/forward A.J. Taylor and freshman guard Max Schaeffer are others who gained experience.
"This group relied on their approach," coach Taylor said. "We experienced some major valleys with lots of questions and some high peaks, both as a group and on personal levels. They all showed up every day. They all worked. They stayed the course. We hit a place where we felt we truly controlled our own destiny. ... Our final days together, the bond was stronger than ever. That's what made this team special -- a true regard for one another."